‘You can be you’: U.S. Army adds fulltime hip-hop artists to service

North Carolina native Staff Sgt. Lamar Riddick, who enlisted last year, says it’s an honor to serve both in the U.S. Army and the Army Field Band. Their mission is about connecting.
Army Field Band Adds Hip-Hop Vocalists
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 7:06 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Last year, was the most challenging recruitment year in almost fifty years. The U.S. Army, the nation’s most capable combat ground force fell short of its recruitment goal by 25%. In response, The Department of the Army in a memo underlined gaps negatively affecting the ability to meet specific targets. One solution was closing the identity gap and launching a “brand refresh” to connect with young people.

The U.S. Army is a branch of almost 200 jobs and Soldiers aren’t just weapons experts they’re veterinarians, fire fighters, and musicians. And the latest position to add to the U.S. Army Field Band is hip-hop artist.

“I think it was on time,” said Staff Sgt. Lamar Riddick. “And I think that the Army is always trying to diversify its efforts and to be transparent and reflect how society looks. And I think that’s very important. It’s one of the ways that I relate because I love to relate to people. And the Army was making an effort to do that.”

Born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Sgt. Riddick has always been musically inclined, earning a full academic scholarship at Bethune Cookman University and graduating with a bachelor’s in music recording engineering.

“I’ve been working in music, wow, pretty much all my life. since (my early years in) North Carolina, I was young doing the performing arts with my mom,” Sgt. Riddick said.

After college the award-winning artist later became a Program Assistant at the West Virginia University School of Music when an opportunity to audition for the U.S. Army came knocking.

“I jumped at it. Got it,” Sgt. Riddick said. “The first in history.”

He’s changing the identity of the Army. One of three gaps mentioned in a 2022 memo signed by the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff that stated, “potential recruits cannot see themselves in Army, often due to assumptions about Army life and culture.”

“I can’t limit my passion. and where it can go,” Sgt. Riddick said. “I think everyone has that perfect picture of what they dream to do, but sometimes the picture can be bigger. And once I realized one, the stability, I got a family, I had a dream to do my music fulltime, and all those things lined up to what was offered. So, I pursued it and enlisted and now I’m doing hip-hop and rap music full time and serving the country.”

Sgt. Riddick who enlisted last year, says it’s an honor to serve both in the Army and the branch’s field band. Their mission is all about connecting.

“Using music to relate and to tell stories, in order to connect with civilians,” he said. “And so that’s what we’re doing through our music, whether it’s hip-hop, country, rock or classical, the mission is still the same.”

Even during boot camp his job position spread like wildfire. Meanwhile, he hopes his role reaches more younger Americans on possibilities in the nation’s oldest branch.

“I think when it comes to the identity gap, that doesn’t solely rely on one person or one unit,” he said. “It’s a collective effort across everywhere, and I think the biggest thing that the Army wants to communicate is that you can be you and be the best you while serving. And I think that’s the target.”

Sgt. Riddick says in addition to travel, the Army provides stability.

“I think everyone that goes through life, is always looking for stability,” he said. “And I think stability is the foundation of success.”

Success that’s enhancing Army readiness.

“It’s good to be here,” Sgt. Riddick said.

While he wouldn’t get too specific about his 2023 schedule, Sgt. Riddick just returned from Scotland and he says the American public should look for him at sporting events and holiday shows this year. Also, the U.S. Army is still offering enlistment and “quick ship” bonuses. There’s even a new two-year enlistment option. To learn more, visit https://www.goarmy.com/